June 2018

Book Reviews

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Price of Freedom by Rosemary Rowe. Severn House 2017. 240 pp.

I was at the library and in the mood for a mystery and checked this one out. It was a good choice. It is set in Roman Britain in AD193. A long, long time ago.

Libertus who had been captured once and made a slave is now a freeman who has a wife and business and is just trying to stay under the radar. It’s not to be, however. A tax collector has supposedly committed suicide after gambling away the collected taxes, and this will be quite a crisis. Marcus, the senior local magistrate, has asked Libertus to travel to the tax collector’s town and investigate. He doesn’t want to go but does not have the option of refusing.

Libertus may seem to be a simple man, but he really is quite clever and soon determines that the tax collector has been murdered. Things get complicated after that until the mystery is solved.

What I found especially interesting about the book is all the details of how life was for everyone at that time, assuming that it was well researched, and I’m sure it was.


Nicolas and Alexandra  by Robert K. Massie. Athenium 1967. 505 pp.

This is a long and complicated book but one can become so absorbed reading it that the very tragic ending seems to come sooner than expected. Nicholas and Alexandra were the last tsar and tsarina of the Russian empire. Nicholas became tsar when his father, Alexander II, died in 1894. Nicholas was a gentle and kind man who probably would have preferred some other position in life. His grandfather, Alexander II, the most liberal of the tsars, had been assassinated in 1881, and that convinced Nicholas of the dangers of liberalism, and that Russia should always remain an autocracy. However, he did grant the existence of an elected parliament, the Duma.

Alexandra, his beloved wife, was a German princess, a grand-daughter of Queen Victoria. After the births of four daughters, the arrival of a son, Alexis, brought rejoicing. But soon the news broke that the child had the dreaded disease hemophilia. This caused dire stress on the family and ramifications that would affect Russia’s future.

As World War I approached, the dangerous behavior of the countries that would be drawn into it is described in detail. There seem to be echoes from that time a hundred years ago in the perilous situations of the world today. Even though we know how Russia began to fall apart during the war and how the revolution began, the way the author presents this picture is vivid and unforgettable.

This is the second time I have read this book, and it had even more of an impact on me than it did 45 years ago. I am giving it to my granddaughter and her husband whose children are Nicholas and Alexandra .


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